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Thread: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

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    Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    A 15-year-old boy who suffered from an autism disorder was shot and killed by police in his Calumet City home after he threatened officers and cut one of them with a knife, police and the boy's family said. The family called police this morning after Stephon Watts, who suffered from Asperger's syndrome, became upset and did not want to go to school, said his mother Danelene Powell-Watts. Asperger's is an autism-type disorder in which a person often has normal or high intelligence, but struggles with social skills and repetitive behavior.

    Police were called about 8:30 a.m. to the home in the 500 block of Forsythe Avenue, an address that was familiar with police, said Calumet City Police Chief Edward Gilmore. "This is an address that's flagged in our system as having a autistic young man there who is very strong and likes to fight with the police." Five officers were consequently sent to the home, Gilmore told a news conference. When they arrived, the boy was in the basement, holding a kitchen knife, Gilmore said. Two of the officers went to the basement and the boy "lashed out" with the knife and struck one of them in the forearm, Gilmore said.

    "At that time, cornered and having no way to retreat back up the stairs, the officers fired one shot each, striking the (boy) twice," Gilmore said. "Unfortunately, the officer thought that his life was in jeopardy." Gilmore was uncertain of where Watts was hit, but his mother said the boy -- who stood at 5-foot-10 and weighed 220 pounds -- was shot in the head. The officer who was cut was treated on the scene by paramedics, Gilmore said.

    Police have been to the home 12 times since June 2010, 10 times to deal just with this boy and domestic issues involving him, Gilmore said. The 15-year-old had wielded knives before, including barricading himself in a bathroom with a knife, prompting police to call out a negotiator, Gilmore said.

    On Dec. 10, Stephon's birthday, police were called after he punched his mother in the face, Gilmore said. The boy fled his home with a knife and officers gave chase, eventually hitting him twice with Tasers.

    Both officers in today's shooting are on paid administrative leave until the completion of an investigation by Illinois State Police. Calumet City police officers last year attended a class dealing with people with autism disorders, and all 84 have been trained to deal with them, according to Gilmore....


    This is a tragedy. Who's at fault here? Anyone?

    Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder - chicagotribune.com
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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    I don't think it's anybody's fault. The cops did what they had to do, but the kid was suffering from a mental illness. There is no need to place any blame. It's just a terrible tragedy.
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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    Very tragic:

    seems to me the medical and health profession field is at fault for this problems - I know nothing of their background as a family. But medical professionals offer little in the means of help for parents trying to raise violent autistic children and most medical insurance providers don't cover enough to give support.

    Since autism is on the rise - the government and medical fields need to work together ot give a more firm foundation of support for the parents and enable better care and understanding.
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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    The police were wrong. They should have used non-lethal force like a taser or aimed their shots somewhere else. The boy is mentally ill, they knew this and went in with 5 officers. The second they saw he had a knife they should have tased him. They acted improperly and due to their actions this person is now dead. However, if the boy was like this routinely he should have been hospitalized and placed on medications.
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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    Quote Originally Posted by digsbe View Post
    The police were wrong. They should have used non-lethal force like a taser or aimed their shots somewhere else. The boy is mentally ill, they knew this and went in with 5 officers. The second they saw he had a knife they should have tased him. They acted improperly and due to their actions this person is now dead. However, if the boy was like this routinely he should have been hospitalized and placed on medications.
    tazers are designed to deal with non lethal force. knives are extremely lethal and in distances less than 20 feet, are often more deadly

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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    Quote Originally Posted by Aunt Spiker View Post
    Very tragic:

    seems to me the medical and health profession field is at fault for this problems - I know nothing of their background as a family. But medical professionals offer little in the means of help for parents trying to raise violent autistic children and most medical insurance providers don't cover enough to give support.

    Since autism is on the rise - the government and medical fields need to work together ot give a more firm foundation of support for the parents and enable better care and understanding.
    Very insightful. I agree with you that medication may have resolved this boy's problems. There's some pretty powerful psychotropic drugs out there that might have made a difference in this young boy's life. Sometimes, though, parents don't like to drug their children. I think that's an ongoing problem in some cases. I guess we'll never know what really went on here.
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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    Having a hard time feeling too bad for a man getting killed after punching his own mother in the face and attacking the police with a knife. I'm divided on how much of the blame we can really put on him, given his mental condition, but it's certainly a good deal more than none of it.

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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    Quote Originally Posted by TurtleDude View Post
    tazers are designed to deal with non lethal force. knives are extremely lethal and in distances less than 20 feet, are often more deadly
    Don't get me wrong, the officer's life was in danger and lethal force is justified. However, I don't think killing him was the best course of action and the situation could have been handled better.

    Truthfully the blame also lies with the parents who never had their child hospitalized or given therapy (whether that be counselling or medication). This is assuming that he wasn't treated.
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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    Quote Originally Posted by digsbe View Post
    Don't get me wrong, the officer's life was in danger and lethal force is justified. However, I don't think killing him was the best course of action and the situation could have been handled better.

    Truthfully the blame also lies with the parents who never had their child hospitalized or given therapy (whether that be counselling or medication). This is assuming that he wasn't treated.
    Yeah....that's kind of where I am on it, Digsbe. My best friend's son is 26 years old, 6'4", and mentally handicapped. Sue always says that she wishes he was either just a bit less handicapped -- or just a bit more. She says that because he is so aware of how different he is...and what he misses in his life compared to his 24-year-old brother who's getting married shortly. He has lots of trouble handling his anger. His story might not read much differently than this young man's.

    He's man-handled his mom, punched walls, gotten so angry Sue's hurriedly left the house to avoid his temper. He punched her once. The police have been to her home three or four times. (Her heart is absolutely broken! for her son. She keeps him on some psychotropic meds that, lately, have controlled him extremely well. But she sees that he's drugged...and feels really bad about it. So.....as she's done in the past, she's just begun cutting back on his meds. Me? I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Again.
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    Re: Family: Boy, 15, shot to death after attacking police had autism disorder

    Quote Originally Posted by digsbe View Post
    Don't get me wrong, the officer's life was in danger and lethal force is justified. However, I don't think killing him was the best course of action and the situation could have been handled better.

    Truthfully the blame also lies with the parents who never had their child hospitalized or given therapy (whether that be counselling or medication). This is assuming that he wasn't treated.
    years ago, a guy I know was chief of a small city near cincinnati (you can google it and perhaps find it) His name is Paul Toth and the city was North College Hill. A woman called the police over her son acting erratic, he was waiving a knife and threatening his mother. So Paul shows up and finds that the 18 year old man had taken his father hostage and was having some sort of major league psychotic episode. After Paul got the father to safety he went back inside to deal with the nutcase. The guy lunged at him with the knife, and Toth, who used to shoot in pistol leagues with me, killed the man. It was clearly justified and ruled so but the mother of the slain man went ballistic and screamed that the officer should have disarmed an 18 year old man swinging in knife.

    There might have been someone at fault there but it sure wasn't Chief Toth. Cops don't have a duty to die so they can "understand" a violent person even if the person is mentally ill

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